A piece of mine on the subject of the plausibility structures for women’s ordination was published yesterday over on the North American Anglican. Within it, I argue that the strength of the women’s ordination position depends heavily on certain features of the world of modernity and that it makes much less sense without out.
Close consideration of plausibility structures is generally quite lacking in debates surrounding women in pastoral ministry. We principally occupy ourselves with rehearsing familiar arguments on various sides of the questions. While these arguments have evolved in some subtle ways and some have been largely abandoned, many of them are substantially the same as they were a couple of hundred years ago. However, the relative effectiveness of these arguments has changed markedly, in ways that will be difficult to understand apart from attention to the transformation of our underlying plausibility structures. Indeed, even when the arguments are the same, the distribution of weight between them has altered significantly. In particular, arguments from nature against the ordination of women have greatly diminished in their effectiveness, and opponents of women’s ordination have placed much more emphasis upon arguments from divine command and theological symbolism.
The plausibility structures for the ordination of women are sociocultural and institutional, not merely theological. And the theological plausibility of women’s ordination or prominent ministry depends heavily upon explicit and implicit ecclesiologies that are heavily influenced by, or which function in terms of, specific sociocultural factors and contexts. The widespread shift towards women’s ordination in the last century has largely arisen from rapid and far-reaching changes in our institutions and social structures.
Read the whole thing here.